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incendiary love

(you) set me on fire

incendiary love
alex johnston

(You) Set Me on Fire, by Mariko Tamaki; Published by Penguin Group Canada, available in paperback (2012)

This looks like a young-adult coming-of-age / love story but be warned! This is a scary novel — a chilling sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat-shouting-at-the-main-character-to-not-go-down-the-stairs scary novel!

*ahem * perhaps I overstate my case. In fact, Tamaki’s second novel is part of an odd genre that is a study of friendship more than romance — though as so often happens in adolescence, that friendship involves some unrequited love. Allison Lee is a college freshman dealing with her ambivalence about her queer but still forming sexuality.

Arriving at college, she meets a rogue gallery of first-year archetypes as well as Shar, who is so angry, cool, aloof and commanding that Allison quickly falls under her spell.

Like a lot of comedic heroines, Allison is pretty hapless, but unlike a Bridget Jones or a Kristen Wiig character, Allison bears the physical marks of haplessness — healing burns and stitches in her lips. This gives the story a sense of grounded danger — although we can be pretty confident that Allison will survive her misfortunes there’s clearly no guarantee that she will do so intact.

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Authoralex johnston

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